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Acts 4:3235; 5:16; 6:17comment (0)

November 8, 2012

By David Hogg

Related Scripture: Acts 4:3235; 5:16; 6:17

Bible Studies for Life 
Academic Dean at Beeson Divinity School, Samford University

Do Life Together

Acts 4:32–35; 5:1–6; 6:1–7

Commit To One Another (4:32–35)
During the period of Roman rule the church was continually faced with the prospect of people who tried to join the church (or remain in the church) despite being unbelievers. But why should anyone wish to join a group that suffered persecution? The answer, in part, is that the church was often a place where people cared for each other and met one another’s needs. Who wouldn’t want to be part of a group where the poor never doubted the prospect of another meal or a widow found brothers and sisters who became a second family?

The picture we have in Acts 4 describes exactly this situation, but there is more here than a simple window into life in the early church. This description provides a prescription against selfishness and self-centeredness. 

Here is a community of the redeemed whose daily living showed a commitment to one another that transcended economic divides and gave evidence that loving God with all of one’s heart, soul and strength necessarily results in loving our neighbor as ourself. When God is our first love we do not confuse the Giver and the gift, and when we can keep those two separate we properly appreciate that what we have is not our own and what we give is not our loss.

Value the Relationship (5:1–6)
Now when we say that what we have is not our own, that does not mean that others have a claim on what God has given us. There is a balance to be struck here. God entrusts gifts to us, and as His servants it is our responsibility to make sure that what has been entrusted to us is cared for appropriately. 

Just as it would be wrong for me to withhold food I can afford to give to a brother who cannot feed himself, so it would be wrong for that same brother to saunter into my house and raid my cupboards in the name of helping me be a good steward of what I possess. The responsibility of right stewardship before God rests with the giver, not the receiver.

This is what we see in Acts 5. Ananias owned some property. It was his to do with as he pleased. He did not have to sell it. He did not have to give all the money to the church. 

No one was responsible for that piece of property but he and his wife. The Bible does not tell us exactly why Ananias lied about his giving, but it is crystal clear that God takes sin very seriously and judgment, even if not final condemnation, will fall on those who willfully and knowingly seek to deceive the Holy Spirit.

Let us be wise with what we have been given and careful to act with integrity with respect to our resources before both God and others.

Raise Up Servant Leaders (6:1–7)
In Acts 6 we move from a focus on the people in the congregation to the leaders of the congregation. It appears that as the church expanded numerically, the opportunity for problems expanded with them. The apostles needed to make sure that the widows throughout the church were being treated equitably, but such a task would have distracted them from their primary responsibility of preaching and prayer. Who could lead this important ministry?

It is striking that the apostles did not instruct the church to choose the most practically minded or those with experience or those with a long-standing history of membership in the church. Instead what mattered most for those who would oversee serving tables and dividing rations to the poor was that they were filled with the Holy Spirit and wisdom. 

What matters more than what we can do is who we are. 

The Lord’s words to Samuel when he was instructed to anoint Saul’s successor remain true for the church: that God does not look at the outward appearance but the heart.

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